Liverpool and Tottenham are both in Champions League action tonight, and they both have absolute must-win games. Liverpool host Napoli at Anfield, while Tottenham face Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Anything other than a win for both would most likely see them go out.
The objective for Liverpool is clear: win 1-0 or by two clear goals if Napoli score. 1-0 will do, but 2-1 won’t. This is because the Champions League groups go by head-to-head results. Napoli beat Liverpool 1-0 in Italy, so if Liverpool win 2-1 tonight, their aggregate would be 2-2 but Napoli would go through on the away goals rule. If Liverpool win 1-0, their head-to-head would be the same, so it would go to goal difference. A 1-0 Liverpool win would leave them both on a goal difference of +2, so it would then go to goals scored. Liverpool would have scored nine, with Napoli scoring seven.
Going out on goals scored would be very harsh on Napoli, who have probably been the group’s best team up to this point. But the Reds won’t care about that. If Red Star Belgrade beat PSG in Serbia, any sort of Liverpool win would send them and Napoli through, but that’s unlikely.
It’s obviously going to be a very tricky game for Liverpool, but they can do it. Carlo Ancelotti says Napoli will be going to Anfield to attack and try to win the game. But surely they’re not going to go for it like their lives depend on it. You’d have to imagine that they’ll look to defend, and hit on the counter-attack. They know that if they can find a goal, Liverpool will be under real pressure.
If the Italians manage to score first, Jurgen Klopp’s side will be in big trouble. Napoli would happily sit back, soak up the pressure and hit on the break as Liverpool try to find three goals. There is a big incentive for Napoli to go at Liverpool and try and get that first goal, but they won’t want to leave themselves too open against Liverpool’s deadly attack either.
Klopp’s team selection tonight will be interesting. Trent Alexander-Arnold will surely come back in at right-back, with Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson occupying the other positions. The formation further up the pitch is something we’re not sure about, though. Klopp went for a workman-like midfield of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum against PSG, but it didn’t really work. Will Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri play? Maybe Klopp will look for a bit more security than that, though. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Henderson in there.
We’re only guessing here, really, and will have to wait until later to see. Regardless of who Klopp goes for, Liverpool will be confident that they can get the job done. But it’s going to be very difficult for Liverpool tonight. Anfield will be absolutely rocking, as it always is on big European nights. The crowd will really help the Reds.
Tottenham have a bigger job on their hands than Liverpool. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have to match Inter Milan’s result. With Inter playing PSV Eindhoven at the San Siro, you can almost guarantee that they’ll win. So that will leave Spurs having to beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp. It’s obviously a very tall order for them, but you never know.
One thing Tottenham have in their favour is that Barcelona have already won the group. The hope is that they’ll rotate a bit, but it’s not clear whether they will or not. They play Levante away at the weekend, but that isn’t until Sunday night. They hardly need to rotate then, do they? Lionel Messi inspired them to a routine 4-0 win against Espanyol on Saturday. It would be a surprise if they were really tired after that one.
Tottenham will go there and fight for every ball, and even if Barcelona do field a full-strength side, Spurs can’t be written off. Their attacking players can hurt absolutely anybody, and Barcelona won’t be looking forward to facing Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli. Whether Tottenham will see enough of the ball to get those into the game is another question, though.
Barcelona will certainly dominate the possession, and Tottenham will have to be at the very top of their game if they’re going to stop them from scoring. Even if Messi is left out, Barcelona can hurt you in so many ways. A clean sheet will be very important, because if they’re going to win tonight, 1-0 seems the most realistic scoreline. I’d imagine they’ll be trying to keep it tight, rather than going all-out-attack. Hitting on the break could be the way Pochettino goes for this one.
It could be a very good game, though. If Tottenham show up and play to their very best, as we saw against Chelsea a few weeks ago, they have a chance.
I want to watch both of these games, and I think I’m going to have to watch one on the TV and one on my phone. It’s a pity they’re both on the same night. We’ve been in this position all throughout the group stages, with Liverpool and Tottenham both playing in big games at the same time. And that’s while the two Manchester clubs play far less exciting games on the other night. But what can you do!
Last night, Everton and Watford drew 2-2 at Goodison Park. Richarlison opened the scoring against his former side, but a Seamus Coleman own goal and an Abdoulaye Doucoure strike gave Watford the lead. Gylfi Sigurdsson missed a penalty, but Lucas Digne put a last-minute free-kick away to snatch a point for the Toffees. Everton are seventh in the table, while Watford are 12th.
And that’s that for this morning. I’ll leave it there because I have some researching to do for this week’s article, which is going to be on the history of the Manchester United/Liverpool rivalry. I went for a long blog today because tonight’s games deserved it. And maybe it’ll be a long one again tomorrow, as we look back on tonight’s games. We’ll see what happens there.
Anyway, you go now. Go in peace, and try to have a good day. If you support Liverpool or Tottenham, best of luck tonight. See you tomorrow.